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Look, we know what you’re thinking: This is by far one of our worst pun-based ideas. But Greg gets real pissy if we don’t let him just go to town roasting something, both literally and figuratively, every thirty days or so. And so we present: soup.
Parenting is a sneaking mission.
The first thing you learn as a parent is the iron rule of not waking a sleeping baby. This is, in my case, somewhat complicated by our child’s bassinet being in our bedroom, right next to my side of the bed. The Mantra Against Waking isn’t on the kid’s account – they’ll be fine if they wake up, and they sleep like butt anyway – but yours. You will go completely insane in short order if you have to put the kid to sleep that often. Real ones know, but if you don’t, at this age putting the baby down can be as simple as literally putting them down, but it can also turn into a 30-minute feed/burp/soothe routine, if you’re not careful or they’re feeling ornery.
So you get good at two things: doing normal but essential activities in perfect silence and near-total darkness, and thinking you’re doing great at that first thing before catastrophically biffing it. Many are the times I’ve been extremely careful to put my keys down on the night stand with nary a single jangle, and the instant I take my eyes off the prize to congratulate myself for doing so, I bang my head on a lampshade and knock my glasses off my face, directly into the bassinet, hitting the baby and waking her up. Enterprising hackers from eastern Europe are, I’m sure, already downloading from my baby monitor and collating footage for a blooper reel of my worst and dumbest moments. You also have to fight the impulse, when your wife tells you again how important it is to be quiet, to do the funniest thing possible, which is make a big loud noise on purpose.
I’ve gotten very used to just throwing on whatever clothes I grab first. Maybe to you it’s not normal to wear sweatpants with a polo, but I’m not in a position to waste time rifling through drawers. Is it weird to put on a striped shirt with patterned pants? Am I making a Fashion Statement with black-on-black outfits? No, it’s just that they all look the same to me when it’s 5am and I’m not allowed to turn on the light.
There’s a particular cadence life takes on with a newborn. The baby somewhat regularly feeds, does Activities, and then sleeps for 30-90 minutes, basically all day long. Those naps are when you catch up on doing dishes, or attempt to make yourself presentable. When there is proper downtime, usually in the 45 minutes between the baby’s last feed ending and when I crater completely, we end up watching a lot of TV shows. Movies, however, have become completely impossible. I’ve watched one feature length film somewhat uninterrupted since our daughter arrived – the extremely excellent Prey – and that only happened because my wife, uninterested in the finer points of The Predator, assumed direct control of the baby so I could concentrate on dudes gettin’ they spines ripped out. It takes us two full days to make it through a single episode of The Great British Bake Off.
If I had to sum up this experience in a single word, it would be: concussive. The child slams into your life and puts you on your back foot, and will continue to do so for what I presume will be the remainder of my natural life. There’s the obvious responsibilities, but also you have to prepare yourself for the day when you’ve had the song from the Fisher Price animal play mat in your head for three days and you find yourself humming it and think “this is a bit of a bop”. You do get used to the disruption, probably the same way you get used to being engulfed in flames, but on top of all of this is the gnawing worry that you’re bad at this. That in some way you are always failing your kid, holding them back and doing persistent damage to their prospects in life. I hear that if you’re worried about this it’s actually a sign that you’re doing it right, that not worrying is the signpost of true failure. I suspect that’s true, but it also doesn’t actually help.
Say goodbye forever to the concept of doing just one thing. Sure, I have to work, and I am somewhat allowed to choose to do other things at times, but at any point I have to be prepared to drop it because my new pint-sized boss is hungry, or tired, or has to poop, or did something cute that I want to see so I throw half-folded laundry in the trash to go look. There’s actually nothing wrong with this – the child does, and should, take absolute priority – but it introduces some complexity. I haven’t assembled or painted a single model since I did half of the Kill Team Kroot earlier this year, and playing games is right out.
If it sounds like this is a complaint, it is, but it’s also not. This may be illustrative: my wife’s car died the other day. I grabbed our jumper cables, and went to start it with my car, and then realized that my car had also died. Fortunately, I live in a suburb, but not one nice enough to have a garage, so my neighbor could just drive his truck across my lawn and jump her car, which I could then drive to the battery store, get two new batteries, install hers, drive home, and install mine. Then, the very next day, I blew up a light fixture and almost set our basement on fire before I cut the breaker. The reason I’m telling this story is that I didn’t care about any of it. Yeah, it messed up a couple of afternoons, but at least I knew my family was safe. The only time the Chaos really got to me all weekend was an unrelated incident where the baby started wailing and we all immediately went into full-blown anxiety attack mode. Kids turn down the volume on the rest of your life, is my point. It’s cool.
The first two months we subsisted on meals I’d made in advance and stashed in the chest freezer. When those ran out, we tried going back to the old ways, doing an afternoon-long meal prep on the weekend and riding out the week on leftovers. That didn’t work, as the baby exhibits extremely poor time management. The one real cooking skill I possess other than knife work is timing, getting everything done at the same time and plated while it’s all still hot, ideally when everyone is hungry but not yet hangry. Good friggin’ luck trying to manage that when your child is screaming. These days we’re lucky if we can eat at the same time – most meals are eaten in shifts, taking turns with the kid – and trying to cook and eat in the same contiguous block of time is a fool’s errand. How are you supposed to shamble through all my existing responsibilities, tick every checkbox in the child development books, and have any time for Activities on top of that? It’s impossible, but it’s also simpler than all that. You do what you can, hit as many to-dos as you are physically capable of, and hope it’s enough. Someone else can handle the rest.
So I lowered my standards, conveniently right when it started getting to that time of year where a big hot bowl of substance is a legally-allowed meal again. That’s right, pull up a chair and rip off a chunk of bread to slop around in this bad boy, because it’s time for soup, a known-good food.
Here’s the recipe: Open your fridge, throw whatever you have there into a big pot, and pour liquid over it until it’s submerged. Let it ride for 2-6 hours. Congratulations, you made soup. Now go take a nap. Here’s another good soup recipe: you can just go to the damn store and buy soup. The shit is like a dollar a can. You’re welcome.
Thanks for sticking around, and making this column what it is: a little-read corner of this website that exists solely for me to waste your time and get yelled at. If you have questions or comments, let us know at email@example.com, or right here in the comments. Meatwatch is here to help.